Florida TaxWatch finds $106M of turkeys in budget

Group urges Gov. Rick Scott to use line-item veto

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A Tallahassee group with close business ties rolled out its annual list of budget "Turkeys" on Thursday and asked Gov. Rick Scott to consider eliminating with his line-item veto.

The government watchdog group defines a "turkey" as a legislative project placed in the state budget without proper vetting or competitive bidding.

The group questions 107 projects costing $106.9 million in the current $74.5 million budget that Scott has until May 24 to sign.  He is unlikely to announce his decisions until next week.

"The Turkey Watch review is an important part of the watchdog role of Florida TaxWatch, and we take this responsibility very seriously," said TaxWatch Chairman John Zumwalt III.

The group commended the Legislature for showing some restraint considering there was a budget surplus for the first time in several years.  The 107 projects worth $106.8 million TaxWatch identified in this year's budget is fewer than the 159 items that appeared in the 2012-2013 budget, in spite of the multibillion dollar shortfall in that year.

"Although Turkeys make up a relatively small percentage of the budget, these projects would cost taxpayers more than $100 million of their hard-earned dollars," said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of the group. "This is why Florida TaxWatch identifies these projects for the governor's consideration for line-item vetoes."

Among the items flagged as Turkeys are money to renovate the Bradford and Clay County courthouses and $100,00 for the Justice Coalition in Jacksonville.  The biggest cuts in Northeast Florida came to three historic preservation projects in St. Augustine slated to cost a total of $1.45 million.

DOCUMENT:  Read TaxWatch's 2013 Turkey Watch Report

The turkey did not include a $50 million coast-to-coast bicycle and foot path backed by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who is in line to become president of the chamber in 2014.

Sen. Joe Negron, the Senate budget chief, has questioned the group's criteria. During the recent session, he also publicly questioned Florida TaxWatch's credibility because of some of the organization's members.

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